We all agree that COVID-19 is serious, but the modern world is more prepared than ever to fight it. So, try to remain calm and do not forget to wash your hands.
The pandemic of COVID-19 consists a global problem challenging the medical, political, social and economical sector. However, numerous scientists have carried out a series of researches on the subject with quite encouraging results, pointing out that we should not despair.
Here are some facts about the new Coronavirus that will hopefully reassure you:
1. We know what it is: According to Ignacio López-Goñi, a professor of microbiology and virology at the University of Navarra in Spain, the virus was identified only seven days after the official announcement on 31st of December, while three days later its gene sequence was known. For you to have a benchmark, it is worth noting that HIV, which first appeared in the mid-1980s, took two years to be identified. In addition we know the origin of the virus, since it has been discovered that it is natural, it is related to a virus found in bats and although it can mutate, this is rarely the case.
2. We can get tested for it: On 13 of January, three days after the virus’ gene sequence was published, scientists at the department of virology at Berlin’s Charité university hospital with help from experts in Rotterdam, London and Hong Kong, have developed and made available a reliable test.
3. We know we can limit it: The quarantine and containment measures implemented by China appear to be efficient. Since February 12th, China’s daily new cases are steadily decreasing. Many Chinese provinces have had no new cases for days and some of them are reopening their schools. Apart from that, in many countries the infections are detected exclusively in defined groups, allowing them to contain the spread more easily.
4. It is not that easy to catch it if we are careful and we can kill it quite easily: The most effective way to prevent the transmission of the virus is frequent and careful hand washing. At the same time, the use of ethanol, hydrogen peroxide or bleach disinfects the surfaces. For someone to be considered at high risk of catching the virus, he needs to live with, or have direct physical contact with someone infected, be coughed or sneezed on by him, as well as be in face-to-face contact within two meters, for more than 15 minutes. Passing someone in the street, of course, is not included in these cases.
5. Symptoms are mild in the majority of cases and young people are at very low risk: A study of 45,000 confirmed infections in China shows that 81% of the cases had minor symptoms, 14% of the patients had “severe” illness” and only 5% were considered “critical”, while around half of those resulted in deaths. Just the 3% of the sample concerned people under the age of 20, children seem barely affected by the virus and the mortality rate for people under the age of 40 corresponds to 0.2%. The rate increases in people over 65, reaching nearly 15% in the over 80s, especially in cases with pre-existing heart or lung conditions.
6. People are recovering from it: According to Johns Hopkins CSSE’s daily count, every day thousands of people across the world are making confirmed recoveries from COVID-19.
7. There are already hundreds of scientific articles about it: Visit WHO’s website dedicated to global research on coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the US National Library of Medicine’s PubMed website, Elsevier’s Novel Coronavirus Information Center, Wiley Online Library, Cell Press Coronavirus Resource Hub, Oxford Academic Journals and Cambridge University Press and you will access to numerous research papers about COVID-19 and vaccines, therapies, epidemiology, diagnosis and clinical practice. As the professor López-Goñi indicates, the current publication rate is significantly faster compared to the Sars epidemic, while most publications about Coronavirus are open and free.
8. Vaccine prototypes exist: Several pharmaceutical and biotechnology labs, as well as academic groups are working on developing preventive vaccine prototypes. Some of them will be soon ready for human testing, although it will take some time to establish their efficacy and safety. For instance, the University of Oxford is running three coronavirus research projects, which include a team developing a new vaccine against COVID-19, a clinical trial testing if existing or new drugs can help patients hospitalised with the virus and another one developing manufacturing procedures in order to make a vaccine available to high-risk groups as quickly as possible. The Imperial College of London will start developing a potential antibody therapy for COVID-19. In Denmark, Expres²Ion is using insect cells to produce a vaccine and has announced a Wuhan Coronavirus vaccine programme. Scientists in the Vektor State Virology and Biotechnology Centre at Russia have started testing coronavirus vaccine prototypes on animals. In the United States, the company Moderna and the National Institute of Health will begin a human trial for a vaccine against Covid-19. The trial will involve 45 healthy volunteers and will take place at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.
9. Several treatments are already being tested: According to Nature Magazine, more than 80 clinical trials are under way for antiviral treatments and most of them have already proven to be successful in treating other illnesses. INSERM for example, the French biomedical research agency, has launched a European clinical trial to evaluate four experimental treatments for COVID-19 named Discovery, that follows WHO’s example and involves 3200 patients from at least seven countries (800 from France). The trials comprise antiviral drugs Remdesivir (used to treat Ebola), Lopinavir/Ritonavir (used to treat HIV/AIDS) and hydroxychloroquine (used to treat malaria).
10. The European Commission is taking resolute action against it: The European Commission is coordinating a common European response to the outbreak of Coronavirus, aiming to reinforce the public health sectors and moderate the socio-economic impact in the European Union. The Commission is making use of all means at its disposal in order to assist Member States in organizing their national responses. It also provides them with objective information about the spread of the virus and effective efforts to limit it. Moreover, president von der Leyen has created a Coronavirus response team at political level to help in coordinating EC’s response to the pandemic.